A new report Reversing Car Dependency, from the International Transport Forum (ITF) examines how governments can encourage citizens to use alternatives to private cars in order to reduce car dependency.

ITF is an intergovernmental organisation with 62 member countries which organises the annual summit of transport ministers. It acts as a think tank for transport policy and is politically autonomous and administratively integrated within the OECD.

Its latest report analyses fiscal policies and other instruments for managing urban traffic and ‘correcting’ current policy biases that favour automobile travel over more sustainable and affordable transport options.

The report also reviews international experience in co-ordinating transport planning with land-use development and in allocating space to walking and cycling in order to make transport more efficient and streets less congested.

The report’s authors argue that managing the growth of urban traffic is vital for achieving and improving the liveability of our cities, and that cities need more efficient, less damaging and fairer use of space. And globally, reducing traffic is essential for scaling back the environmental and social costs associated with private car use in order to meet sustainability objectives.

While the report found that the car is irreplaceable for much travel between peripheral areas, the objective should be to channel private cars to uses where its value to the individual clearly exceeds the costs it imposes on society.

The guiding principle for managing car use adoted by ITF is to enable citizens to satisfy their transport needs and carry out their daily activities without a car. The question for policy, says the report, is therefore how to ensure an adequate level of accessibility through other travel options.

Reducing the modal share of private vehicles also implies significant long-term change in the spatial form of cities. In the short to medium-term, it means reallocating space away from roads and parking. In the longer-term, it implies changes in land-use patterns to maintain high levels of accessibility with lower overall levels of mobility.

The authors found that in common practice the reallocation of road space is used more widely than road pricing to manage car use, but the most effective urban mobility management systems deploy road pricing schemes together with road space allocation and land-use planning instruments.

The report concludes that more sustainable forms of transport will drive a more efficient use of road space, enhance the attractiveness of non-motorised modes and improve the accessibility of specific locations. It will also reduce damage to the environment, make street space more attractive and improve road safety for non-motorists.

ITF’s Reversing Car Dependency recommendations:

Review the street space and urban land share allocated to cars: cars tend to take up disproportionally more space than their modal share. The emergence of shared micromobility has increased demands for redistributing space.

Use road space allocation to proactively manage traffic: reallocation of road space and changes to road layouts that give more space to cyclists and pedestrians should be used as a strategy to manage car use.

Abolish minimum parking space requirements for new developments: minimum parking space requirements for new developments contributes to urban sprawl, increases car dependency, hinders infill development and makes home ownership less affordable

Consider road pricing to drive more efficient use of scarce road space and urban land: flexible charges that vary by time and location can change driver behaviour.

Use parking rates to discourage excessive driving: cities should consider dynamic parking pricing systems that adjust tariffs in real time based on parking place occupancy in surrounding areas.

End employer-paid parking subsidies: employers should be encouraged to eliminate parking subsidies or widen their scope to include commuting by other modes, as an effective way to make commutes by car less attractive.

Ensure that quality alternatives to private cars are convenient and efficient: improving service quality has a stronger influence on demand than lowering ticket prices.

Work towards integrated planning of transport and land-use: aligning transport networks with high-density residential and commercial corridors over several decades is highly recommended.

Review land-use regulations that hinder compact development patterns: evidence suggests greater density can reduce car use and emissions.